March 5, 2008

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 10

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“My goal is to really represent Islam. It’s not a religion that oppresses women. Of course it’s very risky. I may lose my life during this process.”

— Wazhma Frogh, an Afghan woman who uses to Koran to advance women’s rights and literacy (see “Top Stories,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
“Enviropig”: Less pollution, more questions
Short-changed by the labels? Artists dispute Napster settlement
Koran in hand, she wins over mullahs

*Media*
News outlet seeks reader donations to fund Iraq trip

*Labor*
From sweatshops to cotton fields: Child labor goes rural


TOP STORIES

* “Enviropig”: Less Pollution, More Questions

A little bit of genetic editing is all that’s required to slash the environmental damage caused by sewage from industrial pig farms, researchers in Canada say.

Salon.com reports that scientists in Guelph, Canada, have combined an E.Coli gene with a mouse protein, and spliced it into pigs to improve their ability to breakdown phytase, a natural substance rich in phosphorous.

In industrial conditions, phosphorous from superabundant pig sewage leaches into water supplies, causing algae blooms, fish kills, and similar ecological mayhem.

Now, advocates fear FDA approval of cloned meat for American consumption will open the door for the genetically modified “Enviropig,” as it’s been dubbed, to enter the marketplace and the ecosystem without proper testing.

In fact, that already happened in Canada, where a simple error saw 11 stillborn Enviropigs turned into poultry feed for a farm in Ontario, rather than incinerated as required by Canadian law.

Salon reports that none of affected birds, or their eggs, were kept from the market.

Source:

“Should biotech piggy go to market?”
Salon.com, March 4, 2008

* Short-Changed by the Labels? Musicians Dispute Napster Settlement

The recording industry may have netted hundreds of millions of dollars in settlement money from lawsuits targeting Napster, Kazaa and other music-sharing services — but a group of “prominent” artist managers say their clients have not shared in the bounty.

The New York Post reports that EMI, Universal and Warner are still calculating payouts and the “level of copyright infringement” for each artist.

Yet even if there is money owed, industry insiders told the Post that legal fees have drastically cut into what would have been passed along to the artists.

Now, artist managers for performers such as Jewel, the Eagles, Don Henley, Korn and others are threatening to sue.

Representatives of the labels told the Post that they have already distributed settlement funds to their artists, or are beginning to do so.

Source:

“Infringement! Artists Say They Want Their Music Site Dough”
New York Post, February 27, 2008

* Koran in Hand, She Wins Over Mullahs

Fiery and not yet out of her 20s, Wazhma Frogh has been making waves in Afghanistan by using the Koran to undermine oppression of women and boost her literacy and education programs.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that Frogh’s work is part of a trend among liberal-minded Muslims to use sacred texts to advance women’s issues where secular approaches have failed.

Now an employee of a Canadian international development agency, Frogh works at both the policy level and on the street.

Her greatest task — to win over the men who predominate both in Afghan government and village life — has been surprisingly successful, given the country’s struggles with the fundamentalist Taliban.

Her boosters say among Frogh’s great strengths are her encyclopedic knowledge of the Koran, and her facility with Arabic, both of which often exceed the capacities of local mullahs.

Source:

“Inside Islam, a woman’s roar”
Christian Science Monitor, March 5, 2008


MEDIA

* News Outlet Seeks Reader Donations to Fund Iraq Trip

An Oregon news service has come up with an unusual way to help pay for a reporter’s trip to Iraq: It’s asking readers to donate money to the cause

Tim King, executive editor for the Salem News, is heading to Iraq later this month to spend up to six weeks embedded with Oregon National Guard troops.

In order to defray the high costs of such a trip, the agency is putting on a fundraising event March 9 at an Oregon winery, and also has links on its Web site for readers to donate through PayPal.

The site has taken a strongly populist approach in its funding appeals.

One article requesting donations is headlined “Making War Coverage a National Community Project,” while another reads: “If You Really Care About our Soldiers in Iraq.”

The Salem News also solicited and received donations for a previous reporting trip to Afghanistan.

King, a former Marine, reporter and photojournalist, sometimes takes an opinionated and irreverent angle on his articles.

One of his recent articles took on the often-told story of protestors spitting on veterans during the Vietnam War; King suggests that the spitters were government provocateurs.

— Will Crain/ Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Who really Spat on Veterans During the Vietnam War?” Salem News, February 25, 2008

“If you Really Care About our Soldiers in Iraq”
Salem News, February 4, 2008

“Making War Coverage a National Community Project”
Salem News, February 24, 2008


LABOR

* From Sweatshops to Cotton Fields: Child Labor Goes Rural

Far from the urban industrial sweatshops, child labor remains widespread in rural parts of the developing world.

In the Philippines, advocates say tens of thousands of children are working on farms, in mines, and even in deep-sea fishing.

The Philippine Department of Labor and Employment, in a press release late last month, claimed to have rescued 76 children under age 15 from working at a single sugar plantation.

The agency plans to send the children back to school, and also to provide them with medical care and economic assistance.

Wire services reported last month that the United States has promised $5.5 million to the Philippines to help it with a stepped-up campaign to combat child labor.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-based advocacy group World Vision announced a plan to rescue as many as 30,000 children it says are illegally working in the Philippines.

Daphne Culanag, the World Vision project’s director, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that children as young as nine work in sugar cane plantations, deep-sea fishing, mining and other industries in the islands’ rural areas.

The new program, which focuses largely on education, follows a four-year project that ended in March 2007, during which World Vision claims to have taken 31,000 Philippine children out of work and sent them back to school.

The Philippines is far from the only nation to struggle with rural child labor.

Forbes magazine last month ran an article about India’s cotton plantations where the U.S. agricultural powerhouse Monsanto is growing hybridized cottonseed.

Much of the manual labor is performed by children who are paid 20 cents an hour to stoop over cotton fields from dawn to dusk.

Some of them work near a sign which declares “Monsanto India Limited Child Labour Free Fields,” the article said.

Forbes cites one study that found that 420,000 children under the age of 18 were employed by cotton plantations in India, with 54 percent of that number under the age of 14.

An executive from Monsanto later wrote a response to the article saying, “I’m optimistic that, 10 years from now, Monsanto will be viewed as the catalyst that initiated and helped achieve the elimination of child labor in India.”

— Will Crain / Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Child laborers rescued, seek gov’t aid”
Philippine Information Agency, February 22, 2008

“NGO hopes to rescue 30,000 child workers in RP”
Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 20, 2008

“US Aid to Fight Philippine Child Labor”
Associated Press, February 6, 2008

“Child Labor”
Forbes, February 25, 2008

“Reader’s Response: Executive Responds To Child Labor Story”
Forbes, February 22, 2008


Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain

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